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ITIS Majorana School: e-textbook innovation from Italy 

The first article will introduce us to ITIS Majorana School, located in Brindisi, a town in the heel of Italy. The school is one of the state’s technical colleges (Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale), and can truly be said to have embraced technology. Thanks to its strategic investment in technology, the school has incorporated the use of technology across the school curriculum.  The school, which has 110 teachers and 1,200 students, is also leading a successful e-textbooks project.

Teaching and learning interactively 

ITIS Majorana School’s classroom model is based on collaborative teaching and learning. The school actively seeks to enhance interaction and collaboration through the use of ICT: all classrooms are equipped with an interactive whiteboard, wireless internet, and devices for each student (PCs or tablets). Teachers collaborate with their students to create digital learning materials.

According to the teachers, the philosophy of the Majorana School enables them to be facilitators of learning; teachers are on hand to provide guidance and feedback for students’ learning, rather than just broadcasting information at them. Teachers at the school continuously review their teaching methods to make learning more effective and stimulating. There is a strong focus on group work, which fosters the interests and abilities of each student, while also reinforcing their collaborative skills.

Creating e-textbooks for innovative teaching

In Italy, the school is well-known for its flagship project on e-textbooks, ‘Book in progress’. The project, which is led by Majorana School, involves over 100 schools from across Italy; teachers write and produce their own books, both in digital and in paper format, which are then made available for students, replacing the traditional publishers’ textbooks.

Digital textbooks, resources and software are regularly used during lessons. In order to keep digital textbooks and resources up-to-date, project’s teachers are involved not only in the selection of digital content but also in the production of it, according to students’ learning styles and achievements. Furthermore, as the textbooks are produced by the schools themselves (in either digital or printed format), the costs for the students’ parents are reduced considerably.

The teachers are also busy with Future Classroom, a new interactive learning space that has been established in the school to explore pedagogical approaches with the support of Apple products, such as iBooks Authors, iTunes U, Apple TV, and iPads. The Future Classroom has four zones, emphasising different aspects of teaching and learning. The first zone is called “agora” and used for plenaries and presentations; the second zone concentrates on digital material production using for example Educreation, iMovies, Keynotes and Pages; the third zone is dedicated for informal learning; and the last one for collaborative learning.  The teachers use the room for example to organise additional student-led lessons, to develop a more in-depth analysis of some topics and to provide flipped classroom to their students.

 

People behind the teaching revolution

An active school needs an active leader and active teachers. The Majorana School’s innovation process was initiated by the head teacher Salvatore Giuliano, a member at the National Maths and Problem Solving Olympics Board, Galileo Board on Laboratory teaching methodology and ENI Scientific Board for energy. He is the coordinator for digital contents of the network of 2.0 Schools.

Other teachers involved in the Living Schools Lab project include Rossella Palmizio, Maria Antonietta Calò, Daniela Di Giuseppe and Gioacchino Margarito. All four are also involved in e-textbook creation within ‘Book in progress’: Rossella, Maria and Gioacchino, are creating a chemistry e-textbook for the Apple OS, and Daniela has written an e-textbook for English language (B1 and B2 levels) in collaboration with some other teachers from across Italy. Moreover, Gioacchino collaborates with ENI and Louvre for the production of learning resources and e-textbooks and he is the national coordinator for chemistry.

Majorana School and Living Schools Lab

The Majorana School would like to explore opportunities to set up a platform for European schools and teachers who are looking to produce their own educational digital content. Thanks to the Living Schools Lab project, they now have the possibility to pursue this. The school is interested in creating a repository for learning resources – instructional videos, digital learning tools, and e-learning materials – and making them available to all schools involved in the project.

 

We could even plan a European ‘Book in progress’ program with the help of teachers in the Living Schools Lab network and create a virtual classroom where teachers and students could write responses to questions submitted by any school in the network”, Daniella Di Giuseppe suggests.

 

The first project workshop, organised in January in Brussels and involving over 30 Advanced School teachers, provided the Majorana School with the “motivation to go ahead”. Linking up with similar-minded schools and teachers gives them help to “face the challenges of the future within a common project, sharing practices and ideas”, Daniela Di Giuseppe concludes.